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SNU: Hwang Got Road Advisory Funding

Posted January. 14, 2006 03:00,   


Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University (SNU) received 200 million won in research funding in 2001 from the private sector in the name of “putting somatic cell cloning-based stem cell research into practice” well before cloning somatic stem cells, according to an SNU report.

Suspicion is also mounting over Hwang’s receipt of funds from private businesses in the name of advisory fees regarding the Gyeongbu Expressway development project, as Hwang’s field, bioengineering, has nothing to do with construction.

According to the SNU’s report: “The Current Status of Research Funds for Hwang Woo-suk, 2001-2005,” which Dong-A Ilbo obtained on January 13, Hwang received a total of 10.2 billion won in research funding, including about 9.53 billion won from the government, “prize money for the Supreme Scientist” of three billion won, and 680 million won from private businesses.

These are pure research funds that Hwang officially reported to SNU headquarters. This is the first time that the details of the financial support from the government and the private sector to Hwang have been disclosed.

According to the report, the government provided Hwang with research funds to “find ways to assess the damage on cattle made by noises”; “the development of mad cow disease-resistant cows”; “research on cloned pigs,” and “stem cell research.”

Hwang allocated 1.24 billion won to fund “indirect expenses” of SNU headquarters and the SNU College of Veterinary Medicine. Indirect expenses are used for facility management, such as book purchases and incentives for researchers.

In particular, only 200 million won currently remains out of the three billion won that the government provided after designating Hwang as the nation’s first Supreme Scientist. This could set off a controversy over how much money should be taken back when the government retracts the research funds.

Financial support from the private sector included 240 million won for two projects such as the “development of technology for putting into practice somatic cell cloning” in 2001; 40 million won for the project, “Purina research on propagation disorder and somatic cell nuclear transfer” in 2002; and 333.5 million won for the “bedding construction in the 11-4 section of the Gyeongbu Expressway,” and four other projects in 2004.

In one case, Hwang received 100 million won in advisory fees, which raises questions of what advise Hwang gave and for what purpose the money was given.

It seems likely that if any irregularities were conducted in the process of accounting, Hwang might face embezzlement charges.

Meanwhile, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) announced that the government funds provided to Hwang from 1995 to 2005 amounted to 41.7 billion won, including 29.5 billion won in research equipment and facility costs, and that private funding from the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) and POSCO totaled 4.3 billion won. The figures include unexecuted funds.

Se-Jin Jung Kang-Myoung Chang mint4a@donga.com tesomiom@donga.com